Interview with: Richard Stapley-Oh, Managing Partner

KPMG Vietnam | View firm profile

What do you see as the main points that differentiate KPMG Legal Limited from your competitors?

Our lawyers all come from a range of legal and commercial backgrounds, and so the Firm posseses a thorough knowledge of the industries in which our clients operate. The team is also fluent in a range of languages. In addition to English and Turkish, our lawyers also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, German, Swedish and Spanish, allowing us to work effectively with our international clients.

Our main focus is to assist our clients in a simple, clear and cost-effective manner. I myself come from an in-house background; prior to founding Kılınç Law & Consulting, I was legal counsel at SOCAR, Azerbaijian’s State Oil Company, in Turkey. The Firm is therefore founded on a core understanding of corporate clients’ expectations of their legal services providers, and we apply this knowledge across all the matters on which we are instructed.”

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

I anticipate that our Market Entry, M&A, Labour Law and Corporate Reorganisation practices will continue to deliver significant growth in the next 12 months, and beyond.  In terms of market sector growth, we are seeing continued interest from foreign investors in the manufacturing and retail sectors, and there has been a lot of interest in infrastructure, particularly in the renewable energy sector.

There are many drivers behind this, and obviously Vietnam’s liberalization of the economy is the key. The Government continues to remove conditions on foreign participation in business activities, which has accelerated investment across all sectors. In addition to this, Vietnam’s entry into a number of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements also serves as a major impetus for foreign investors to enter or expand in the Vietnam market.

Secondly, I can’t overstate the impact of the “Vietnam growth story.” Vietnam has a dynamic, young, and increasingly affluent population. As a consequence, Vietnam is experiencing increasing demand for social infrastructure and services, such as education and healthcare, and services and products that respond to greater discretionary spending, such as in F&B and entertainment.  This demand is being noticed by, and met, by foreign investors.

Finally, the imposition of tit for tat tariffs by the United States and China is forcing foreign investors in China to seek an alternative production base. Vietnam is a logical destination for manufacturers leaving China. What is interesting here is that there is a greater potential for underperforming local manufacturing enterprises to be attractive M&A targets. We also anticipate that US companies will look to Vietnam to expand operations with the ultimate aim of exporting products to China.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

Our Deal Advisory, Tax, and Legal (“DTL”) practices have been reorganized and consolidated into one cohesive unit with a functional head whose role is to coordinate and drive efficiency and ensure on-point and responsive advice are provided to our clients. Our clients have already recognised that our integrated approach drives efficiency through a client-centric lens, and our reorganisation formalises that value proposition.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

As a global multidisciplinary professional services firm, we can draw on experience, expertise, and relationships from across our global network. For example, we have a client that was looking to expand its business in the Vietnam market, but needed a partner well-versed in the specific sector. We reached out to the global network, which returned a shortlist of viable business partners. Once the selection was made, and the principals reached alignment on their business plan and strategy, KPMG was tasked with implementation. It was incredibly powerful to have senior professionals from various countries and with varied expertise come together as an effective client service team that delivered real results.

The services that KPMG provided were broad and comprehensive, encompassing the development of a business model, strategic analysis of the market and market participants, investment modelling, cross-border tax advice, and a slew of legal services, such as drafting and negotiating a number of commercial contracts, company establishment, and regulatory and licencing assistance.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three year’s time?

The professional services industry, in general, and legal services, in particular, are very much a people business. Our brand might be a reason for a client to walk through our doors, but it is the professionals involved, and the dedication they show and the trust that they cultivate, that ensure that new and existing clients will remain as life-long business partners, and KPMG Legal’s professionals are considered to be their trusted advisors.

KPMG Legal places considerable emphasis on developing its professionals through detailed and life long learning and development initiatives, international secondment opportunities and great importance placed on work-life balance to ensure a safe, happy, and healthy workplace. KPMG in Vietnam prides itself on being an employer of choice.

By attracting the best clients, we will win the best work available in the market, which in turn provides learning and development experiences to the best people.  In three year’s time, KPMG Legal will continue to be a market leading law firm in Vietnam.